Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Why women's international cricket needs a review. How is women's cricket going to draw level with men's if it remains so much more out of sight?
How is women's cricket going to draw level with men's if it remains so much more out of sight?
Women's international cricket doesn't get the attention it deserves at the best of times. What chance does it have of garnering its share of the spotlight in the worst of times? That is, when men are crowding the space.
In Antigua this month, South Africa shared a series of three T20Is against West Indies and then whipped them 4-1 in the ODIs. But half of those eight games were played on the same days as the men's team took on Sri Lanka in Colombo. So media coverage of the women's series left much to be desired. Something had to give.
Why couldn't those priorities be reversed? Because whatever lip service is paid to playing fair in cricket's battle of the sexes, the men's game remains the top priority: the interest in their matches brings in revenue for boards and media houses alike. And money is what it's about for boards and media houses alike. Until women's cricket earns significant amounts, don't expect that pecking order to change.
But how does it change if cricket played by women is so much more out of sight, and thus out of mind, compared to that played by men? Broadcasters are not going to pay boards more in rights fees for a product they know advertisers consider second-rate because it doesn't garner as much coverage as the other product. Whether women are more skillful than men or whether their matches are more exciting doesn't matter. What matters is that more people are interested in men's cricket.
It's cynical and unfair, and, gentle consumer of the game, it's your fault. If you paid more attention to women's cricket – by offering your eyeballs and giving your clicks to their games more often – that wouldn't be the case. The money would move, and with it cricket's centre of financial gravity to a more level status.
Or is it the fault of the boards and the media? You can't watch or read about what you can't find, and women's matches are relegated so far down the ladder in marketing and coverage that they are all but invisible except at tournament time. So much for all that lip service. The market shouldn't get what the market demands just because the market demands it.
What did Lizelle Lee think about having to compete with men in this discriminatory way? Not a lot. “If we're on a tour we have a job to do, and we make sure we do it,” she told an online press conference on Tuesday. “It's great that the men play and they get all the exposure, and we support them all the way. But that's the last thing we think about.”
Perhaps that's easy for Lee to say. She's a star performer in a team that has won six of their last seven white-ball series and drawn the other. When you're part of creating powerfully positive truth, who cares if not enough people know it? That's their loss.
But the way the ODI series in Antigua ended illustrated the difference between men's and women's cricket. With the scores tied and a ball left in the match, Mignon du Preez tried to scramble a single off Deandra Dottin. At short midwicket, Shakera Selman dived and flicked the ball to Dottin, who broke the wicket.
Although Joel Wilson was poorly positioned at about 45 degrees to the crease and had a tight call on his hands, his finger went up almost before the bails came off. Cue the first super over in women's ODIs and only the third in all of cricket, in which the Windies prevailed. Why wasn't the run-out decision referred? Better question: to who?
“That's the sort of thing that is going to get you sometimes because there's no third umpire,” Lee said. “A few players thought ‘Minks' might be in, but you can't sit on the sidelines and think it's in or out. That's just something you have to deal with.”
Not if you're a man playing for a major international team. In that world, DRS is called on to parse, often painstakingly, the difference between bat, crease and when, exactly, bail parts company with stumps. The implication is that men's cricket is more important than that played by women, and therefore worth spending more on to ensure correct decisions are made.
If there is an upside to the relative smallness of the women's game, it's that players are more open to speaking their minds. When millions are watching and much is on the line in sponsorship terms, too many demure and tread diplomatically.
Certainly, Lee's bracing take on the concept of the super over is refreshing and the kind quite rare in men's cricket: “It's definitely something that shouldn't be in an ODI. Six balls can't decide an ODI. I totally disagree with that. I don't think it should have happened. In T20Is anything can happen – if you play a bad game you lose, if you play well, you win. ODIs are more about skill. You have to adapt to the conditions, and there are longer periods of batting and bowling. But it happened and it is what it is.”
Wouldn't Kane Williamson, or any New Zealander, have been itching to say exactly that after England burgled the 2019 World Cup final in a super over? No doubt. But Williamson plays for that other kind of team: win, lose, draw or tie, it's always the best of times.